Betty Duffy

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Long Winding Roads (that always seem to lead here)

When I was five, my parents moved to a bedroom community twenty miles from the center of Indianapolis. It was a temporary move, meant to be a half step towards their final move to the country. Everything about the house pointed to its transitory service to us, the hollowness of the doors, the flimsiness of the walls. My family lived there for twenty years.

I could drive to that house in my sleep. In fact I have driven there, when I’ve given my brain the instruction to “drive home” and then unplugged from the mental exercise of determining the correct turns to make. I’ve arrived on that road, only to wake up and realize, “Oops, wrong home.”

Looking at what the new owners have done with the place, I feel bent out of joint, because they’ve done the house all wrong. They’ve cut down the Hawthorne my dad planted, and I can see into my old bedroom window that it is now an office. It looks sad, and unloved.

Of course we didn’t love it much when we lived there either. My husband and I had an opportunity to buy it when my parents finally made their move to the farm on which they now live, and no, we didn’t want it. It was a great street to grow up on, but the house felt stubborn, inefficient, and brown, and I also didn’t especially want to live among the memories of my former self and my siblings and all of our growing pains.

I drove by the old house Friday night after having dinner with my girlfriends from high school. When I go back to that road, that driveway, I still feel like I own it. And I own all those streets around my old house where we used to ride our bikes and where my husband and I took walks when we were dating. When I lived there, I wanted nothing more than to leave there, and when I finally did leave that town, I thought, “good riddance.”

But certain memories take on deeper value with the passage of time. Our life there comes back to me more and more often: the hole where my knee went through the drywall as I held the bedroom door shut against my sister. In the bathroom we shared, my sister and I would stand side by side in front of the mirror getting ready, and break into pouty poses: “This will be our album cover.” On the corner of our road, I had my first and only car accident, driving on ice when I was sixteen. I slid off the road and into a tree, totaling my parents’ station wagon.

And further down the road, where a creek crosses through the cornfields, my husband proposed to me on one of our walks. When I drive by the creek bed an alarm always goes off in my heart. We went back to that creek a couple months after we married to bury a miscarried child. I didn’t realize that we could have asked for a burial, and because I wasn’t far along when I miscarried, I would have been embarrassed to ask for one. We have not walked along that creek bed since then, but I still own it. A tiny baby of mine is there, in a little Tupperware coffin.

And this is not where I intended to go with this essay, but here I am, and now I’m stuck. I always get stuck when I think about the Tupperware. So I’m going to bed.


Anne said...

Oh Betty! I would get stuck at the tupperware too. I miscarried a baby 25 years ago. The memories are still almost unbearable. I've tried to find some relief this past year. My very dear friend who is a priest helped me with a prayer ceremony. I decided that my baby was a daughter and I named her Magdalene. Giving her a name helps me to pray for her every day. I wrote a poem for her and recited it and Fr. Don read a passage from Jeremiah. It gave me a sense of righting all that I had done wrong way back then.

I live 80 miles away from my hometown and now that my parents are no longer living, I don't get back there very often. When I do, I also have to drive past all of my old haunts-houses I've lived in, schools I went to, stopping at my favorite restaurant.

Nothing is the same and I'm glad to have moved on from that life, but still, I proudly go on and on about people and places, sharing and pointing it all out to my children.

Thanks for sharing your memories. You seem like such a beautiful soul.

jenX said...

i've miscarried, too. i never, ever forget that baby. i can't believe i will get to see her one day.

Emily G. said...

It is odd to move away from a home you spent years in. When I think of home, I often catch myself thinking of the house I grew up in and in which my parents still live. Then I have to superimpose my husband's and my house over that image.

I miscarried last August. We did ask for burial (thanks to the internet I knew I could). My husband made a tiny coffin. Our baby is buried in a little church cemetery in southeastern Indiana. I will never stop thinking about that baby.

Cass said...

I've miscarried as well. I pray for and think about those babies everyday. I am looking forward to the day I will be reunited with the children I was never able to hold or kiss.

nicole said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Hope said...

Sometimes I paint myself right into a corner on a post and think to myself, "Oh crap, I wouldn't have started if I knew this is where I would end up."

When I was in rehab one of the mandatory sessions was on grief and loss. We had to make a collage of all the ungrieved losses in our lives. I cut pictures out of magazines of the three babies I've miscarried and they became part of the collage. It was very healing to do that. I cried when I had to get up in front of the other people in that workshop and explain my collage.

I am sorry for your loss.

Pentimento said...

I'm so sorry about your loss. I've lost four, and though we never buried their remains (I had D&Cs for three and the fourth was an ectopic that required a different kind of emergency surgery), we did find out that we could honor them in a Mass with some other parents who had lost children. We did this at a friend's parish in the Bronx; all the lost children were named. I assume they are in heaven, but the Mass intentions will go to someone else who needs them just in case.

BettyDuffy said...

This is one of those posts I couldn't decide whether or not to press "publish" on. I didn't want to ask for sympathy. The loss of this pregnancy allowed another successful pregnancy to follow it. I can't regret the miscarriage without also rejoicing in the son I have because of it. But the mother/child connection is fierce, even in those pregnancies that, for whatever reason, don't come to term. I also am regularly baffled by what seemed like such good intentions on our part at the time.

I know that miscarriage is somehow part of the profound experience of womanhood. We all have our losses, and I know that others have suffered much more than I have. For all of your losses, I'm sorry.

I know our children are advocating on our behalf in Heaven.